Women’s Aid highlights coercive control through mock fashion campaign

Women's Aid: campaign has been created by Engine
Women's Aid: campaign has been created by Engine

The campaign aims to raise awareness about coercive control, an under-recognised aspect of domestic abuse.

Domestic violence charity Women’s Aid is highlighting the effects of coercive control in a new print and out-of-home campaign, "Not model's own", which subverts the style of a fashion campaign to depict the ways in which abusers control the lives of their partners.

The aim of the campaign, created by Engine, is to build awareness of coercive control, help young people understand what it is and identify its characteristics.

Although difficult to define as a singular type of behaviour, common examples of coercive control include abusers isolating partners from family and friends, dictating where their partner can go and publicly humiliating them.

The campaign takes the example of abusers deciding what their partner can wear and then mimics a fashion ad campaign in which the victim poses in the clothes chosen for them.

Instead of brand names being attributed to the model’s clothes, all of them are “by model’s partner”, and it isn’t just the physical aspects of the models’ appearances. One ad reads: “Skirt – by model’s partner; Hair – by model’s partner; Make-up – by model’s partner; Anxiety – by model’s partner; Isolation – by model’s partner; Insecurities – by model’s partner’.”

The purpose is to demonstrate that the effects of coercive control are not always physical, but are more often emotional with the abuser’s behaviour controlling and manipulating the victim.

The campaign was created by Jo Moore and Antonia Clayton. The photographer is Sean De Sparengo and the production company is Curious Productions.

Instances of coercive control have been exacerbated by the pandemic. In the year ending March 2020, there were 24,856 coercive control offences recorded by the police in England and Wales. The previous year recorded 16,679 offences. In the first two weeks of lockdown in March 2020, there were 41% more users visiting the Women’s Aid Live Chat site.

Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “Coercive control can be difficult to identify within a relationship, if you don't know what the signs are. A pattern of different forms of abuse with wide-ranging tactics can make it difficult to define, when you are being controlled and manipulated by a partner.

Perpetrators slowly isolate survivors from support, deprive them of their independence and regulate their everyday behaviour, gaining more and more control.

“This campaign is vital in raising awareness of coercive control to help survivors, and those around them, recognise the signs of abuse. If any of the signs highlighted in this campaign are familiar to you, Women’s Aid is here for you, please reach out for expert support.”

Christopher Ringsell, creative director at Engine, said: “Drawing young women in with aspirational fashion shots and then letting them realise there is a sinister vulnerability behind the glossy look will hopefully raise awareness of coercive control and help the viewer question anything that does not feel right in their own relationship.”


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